Domestic violence vigils focus attention on abuse

The Center for Family Justice (CFJ), with the support of community leaders and law enforcement in the six communities it serves, has scheduled a series of seven vigils to mark the observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.

These vigils, which will take place at 6 p.m. beginning on Tuesday, Oct. 2, at the Bridgeport Police Department, will honor those who have been impacted by intimate partner violence; raise awareness and inspire hope that the cycles of violence can be broken.

In a state that has experienced a total of 30 domestic violence-related homicides since Jan. 2017, these vigils also serve to remind local residents that domestic violence homicide is a problem in every demographic and community CFJ serves. Each vigil will include a solemn reading of the names of the 18 people who lost their lives to domestic violence in Connecticut in 2017 and the 12 who lost their lives so far in 2018.

Debra A. Greenwood, CFJ’s president and CEO, will join police chiefs and community leaders in each town, to speak to their hope that the statistics on domestic violence improve with continued dedication to protecting victims and educating the public about prevention. At some vigils, a local survivor of domestic violence will also talk about her experiences and the help she received from CFJ.

“This past year has taught us that despite great progress in raising awareness, it is critical to be taking action in our communities to prevent intimate partner violence,” said Greenwood. “The number of domestic violence related homicides reported in our communities this year is a disturbing and unacceptable trend. So, our message this year is focused on taking action. We hope to educate people in the communities we serve on things they can do to help victims and survivors life safe, healthy lives free of trauma and abuse.”

In some cases, Greenwood noted, action steps can be simple, but profoundly meaningful. Some of these action steps include:

  • Learn the signs of domestic violence, which often are more subtle than cuts and bruises. Visit CFJ’s website, for more information.

  • Believe someone who tells you they are experiencing abuse in their relationship — even if you have never witnessed it — and ask how you can help.

  • Help victims with emergency plans by, for example, storing their emergency phones or overnight bags.

  • Check-in regularly to let them know you care.

  • Write things down. Document every violent or abusive incident you witness noting the date, time, location and specifics.

  • Be a resource. Provide them with the number of your local domestic violence hotline. CFJ’s domestic hotline number is 203-384-9559.

  • Speak up. Domestic and dating violence impact an estimated one out of four women and one out of seven men. One out of four people who experience domestic violence identify as part of the LBGTQ community. We can all play a role in being advocates for victims and survivors by condemning violence and abuse.

Greenwood said that of particular concern this year is the number of domestic violence homicides which have taken place in the last two years in homes where children were present. Five of the 30 homicides which took place in Connecticut the six communities CFJ serves.

According to Greenwood, the vigils also serve the purpose of allowing victims to know that at CFJ there is a safe place, close to home, where they can receive free and comprehensive services. These services include free counseling and emergency shelter.

“Every year, I hear a story at a vigil from someone in attendance who feels compelled to come forward with their experiences with domestic violence because of the support they feel at our vigils,” said Greenwood. “That tells me how important it is for us to gather together to hold these events.”

The 2018 vigil schedule is as follows:

  • Tuesday, October 2: Bridgeport Police Headquarters, Bridgeport

  • Wednesday, October 3: University of Bridgeport Student Center

  • Tuesday, Oct 9: Stratford Town Hall

  • Wednesday, Oct 10: University of Bridgeport Student Center.

  • Thursday, Oct. 11: Monroe Town Hall

  • Wednesday Oct. 17 Easton Community Center

  • Thursday, Oct. 18: Fairfield’s Town Hall.

  • The vigils begin at 6 p.m., are appropriate for all ages, and open to the public.